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Technology Trends: Collegiate eSports - Executive Leadership Articles

Technology Trends: Collegiate eSports

Executive Leadership Articles

Technology Trends: Collegiate eSports

Gaming: No Longer (Necessarily) a Waste of Time

For decades, parents have considered their kids’ video game obsessions mere childish escapism, while kids’ arguments on their behalf were limited to such claims as improved hand-eye coordination and socialization in cyberspace with people from around the world. This is changing, though, because games have opened a new realm of competition that’s proven its viability as a career option. Lately, in addition to aspirations of becoming a professional games player, young people can point to the possibility of receiving college scholarships as one very real benefit of hours spent every day in front of a screen.

According to an article in Wired, nearly 200 colleges offer esports scholarships, and the number is growing. Many university campuses feature their esports arenas as enticements for young people choosing their schools. These facilities, effectively high-end versions of the LAN rooms of the early 2000s, bring as much credibility with today’s young adults as physical fitness centers, and at much lower costs. College esports teams award scholarships averaging between $4000 and $5000, but as audiences and prestige grow, so will the scholarship amounts.

The Audience is Out There

Last year’s world League of Legends championship attracted more viewers than the Super Bowl and the NCAA men’s Final Four combined. Professional gamers in Fortnite and Overwatch enjoy the fame and recognition of rockstars and elite athletes, with fans aligning themselves with pro teams the way they do in other professional sports, wearing jerseys to declare their loyalties.

Where is this market, and why haven’t you heard of it? You can be extremely disinterested in professional sports, but in the United States you simply cannot be unaware of the Super Bowl every January and February, as commercial interests make sure nearly every aspect of popular culture is connected in some way to one of the largest television audiences in America each year. While TV deals for esports competition haven’t yet emerged as lucrative (and therefore as visible) as pro football, the audience is almost completely online, and viewing is free. In the world of conventional sports, you haven’t made it if you don’t have a TV deal, but this is clearly not the case for esports, whose audience is enormous and worldwide, something that can’t be said of American football outside the one big game.

Back to School

The young people who enjoyed the XBox and PlayStation era of gaming are in their thirties now, and for many the concept of gaming as a career or an avenue to affording college is not nearly as preposterous as it might have been for generations before.

Somebody’s paying attention, because although the National Collegiate Athletics Association is the one governing body for major college sports, at least two collegiate esports associations have emerged in this rapidly growing space, NACE and Tespa, who each sponsor competitions and do the necessary work of governing and sanctioning. NACE counts more than 130 member schools representing more than 3000 student athletes and $15 million in scholarships. Tespa represents more than 270 chapters. Both groups boast member schools traditionally thought of as elite in athletics and academics, the football schools and the brainy schools, universities large and small.

It makes sense, and in many ways esports provide something closer to an even playing field. Esports teams are not enormous like football teams, and they don’t require multi-million-dollar facilities or venues. According to the Wired article, it only costs an average of $32,000 to set up an esports team, a mere pittance in many universities’ budgets.

The Old College Try

It’s impossible to predict where collegiate esports are going, how big they’re going to get, and how lasting they’ll be in our culture. But something is clearly happening in new and exciting ways, and it’s going to be fun to see where it goes.

Reference links:
Wired: https://www.wired.com/story/infoporn-college-esports-players-cashing-in-big
NACE: https://nacesports.org
Tespa: https://tespa.org


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